The Digital Schools of Distinction programme (www.digitalschools.ie) is an award system for Irish primary schools, coordinated by Dublin West Education Centre. It aims to promote, recognise and encourage excellence in the use of technology in Irish primary schools. Meetings of the steering committee are chaired by the Director of DWEC, Mr. Gerard McHugh.

The steering committee is composed of representatives from each of the following bodies:

  • DWEC, administrative centre for the programme
  • INTO – Irish National Teachers Organisation
  • IPPN – Irish Primary Principals Network
  • CESI – Computer Education Society of Ireland
  • PDST – Professional Development Service for Teachers
  • Department of Education & Skills
  • Hewlett Packard Ireland
  • Microsoft Ireland

How it works:

The DSoD programme is optional: schools can choose whether or not they wish to be involved. It is a public-private partnership and has been made possible with significant support from the two commercial organisations named above.

Step 1: Schools register online indicating interest

Step 2: Schools use the criteria outlined on the web site to conduct a self-evaluation process under five distinct headings

Step 3: Schools apply for validation once they are confident they have attained the necessary standards. A validator will visit the school at a prearranged time to examine the school’s application.

Step 4: Typically, once a school has been awarded Digital School status, an award ceremony will be held in the school to highlight the success and formally accept a plaque in recognition of their achievement.

A team of trained validators is available to conduct validations on a nationwide basis. The work of this team is coordinated by DWEC and their fees and expenses are provided by the Department of Education & Skills. This Validation visit is aimed at validating what the schools has indicated on their self-evaluation review. The process involves validators observing activities in the school, having discussions with key staff in the school and examination of websites, blogs and documentation submitted as part of the request for validation. A validation report is submitted to the DSoD committee and a determination is given to award status or otherwise. Schools that are unsuccessful are provided with advice and guidance to assist them making a renewed application at a later stage.

 

There are five main headings under which criteria are divided:

  1. Leadership and Vision
  2. ICTs integration in the curriculum
  3. School ICT culture
  4. Continuing Professional Development
  5. Resources and infrastructure
Criteria Heading No of Total Criteria No of Essential Criteria
Leadership & Vision 14 3
ICTs integration 9 4
School ICT Culture 7 1
Professional Development 7 2
Resources & Infrastructure 9 5
Total 46 15

 

It should be emphasised that the focus of the scheme is the integration of digital learning / digital teaching into the day-to-day curricular activities of the school, rather than on the amount or specifications of the hardware infrastructure.

The benefits of being awarded Digital School of Distinction status:

The work of all members of the school community, including principal and staff, are publicly acknowledged. The plaque, when displayed, presents a positive indication of the success of the school. For many schools, parents will have provided funding, devices and / or technical support and the award provides a public acknowledgement of these efforts. The school is also given a colour printer, one year’s free printing (HP) and Office 365 (Microsoft) as a tangible reward for its success. The structured list of criteria provide schools, no matter where they might be on the spectrum of technology integration, with a very practical set of targets and aims on which to build a whole-school strategy to advance their integration of ICTs across the curriculum .

Schools who receive the Digital Schools of Distinction Award are recognised nationally and listed on the DSoD website. Because the Award is recognised nationally, organisations and research bodies often connect with awarded schools to request their participation in national and international research projects, test trialling new products and software. DSoD schools also get invitations and support to participate in national activities such as “Code Week” by companies promoting such activities like HP, Microsoft and Google for example.

The essential criteria involved in the attainment of Digital School status are as follows:

  •  The ICT vision is integrated into the whole-school plan.
  • There is a whole-school policy approved by Board of Management.
  • There is an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that is implemented throughout the school.
  • ICT supports the key principles of the Primary School Curriculum.
  • ICT is integrated across a wide range of curricular areas.
  • ICT is used across all ability levels.
  • Assistive Technologies and appropriate ICT software are integral resources for the students with special educational needs who require additional or differentiated learning.
  • The Internet is used as a learning and teaching resource throughout the school.
  • The school has published a school website that is up-to-date and current, and features pupils’ work.
  • The school shows evidence of sufficient and adequate access to computers/laptops in order to
    deliver the criteria for resources and infrastructure.
  • There is a computer network available for educational purposes.
  • Internet access is available throughout the school via The Schools Broadband Network or other appropriate system.
  • There is a variety of content-rich and content-free software available for use covering a range of curricular areas and class levels catalogued.
  • All software is licensed.
  • There is a mechanism in place to inform teachers of courses in relation to professional development in ICT.
  • The school keeps abreast of developments in technological and professional ICT practice and is aware of the professional development needs of the staff in relation to ICT.

 Typical award ceremonies

philandcody

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan presenting St Patricks de la Salle National School Principal Brian Cody with the Digital School of Distinction Award

stcronans

Digital Distinction Award for St. Cronan’s NS, Swords: this prestigious award was presented by Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD

glinsk

Glinsk N.S. has been awarded the Digital Schools of Distinction Award. An awards ceremony to celebrate this great achievement was held on Wednesday 24th June 2015 at Glinsk N.S. A large crowd from the wider school community joined pupils, staff, parents, grandparents, parents association and Board of Management in celebrating this award. Special guests Mr. Michael Meehan All-Ireland Club winner with Caltra G.A.A. club and Mr. Neil O’Sullivan of the Digital Schools Team based in Dublin West Education Centre attended the award ceremony.

 ciarancannon

Minister Ciaran Cannon presents the award to St. Peter’s NS, Bray, Co. Wicklow

leckaun 

Award ceremony at Leckaun NS, Co. Leitrim